Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Jonathan Allen Guerra writes a bit about the mysteries of the human condition. Here is a passage from David Foster Wallace's "Brief Histories of Hideous Men," that's as much about mysteries as anything else is, though these mysteries are quite different and involve chickens.
"Bear with me a moment, now. Chicken-sexing. Since hens have a far greater commercial value than males, cocks, roosters, it is apparently vital to determine the sex of a newly hatched chick. In order to know whether to expend capital on raising it or not, you see. A cock is nearly worthless, apparently, on the open market. The sex characteristics of newly hatched chicks, however, are entirely internal, and it is impossible with the naked eye to tell whether a given chick is a hen or a cock. This is what I have been told, at any rate. A professional chicken-sexer, however, can nevertheless tell. The sex. He can go through a brood of freshly hatched chicks, examining each one entirely by eye, and tell the poultry farmer which chicks to keep and which are cocks. The cocks are to be allowed to perish. 'Hen, hen, cock, cock, hen,' and so on and so forth. This is apparently in Australia. The profession. And they are nearly always right. Correct. The fowl determined to be hens do in fact grow up to be hens and return the poultry farmer's investment. What the chicken-sexer cannot do, however, is to explain how he knows. The sex. It's apparently often a patrilineal profession, handed down from father to son."